Common Health Problems  »  Women’s Health


Self-Care / Prevention

To Relieve Menstrual Cramps

  1. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, or aspirin. Acetaminophen can help the pain, too. {Note: Do not give aspirin or any medication with salicylates to anyone 19 years of age or younger, due to its link with Reye’s Syndrome.}

  2. Hold a heating pad or hot-water bottle on your abdomen or lower back.

  3. Take a warm bath.

  4. Gently massage your abdomen.

  5. Do mild exercises. Stretch. Do yoga. Walk. Bicycle. Exercise may improve blood flow and reduce pelvic pain.

  6. When you can, lie on your back. Support your knees with a pillow.

  7. Get plenty of rest. Limit stress as your period nears.

  8. Consider using the birth control pill or the Progestasert IUD. These lessen menstrual cramps.

If you still feel pain after using self-care measures, call your doctor.

Often, self-care treats menstrual cramps. If not, a doctor can diagnose the cause and prescribe treatment.


National Women’s Health Information Center


Menstrual cramps are also called painful periods. Most females have them sometime during their lives.

Signs & Symptoms

  1. Pain or discomfort in the lower abdomen right before or with a menstrual period. The pain can range from mild to severe.

  2. The pain can occur with:

  3. -A backache.

  4. -Fatigue.

  5. -A headache.

  6. -Diarrhea and/or vomiting.

  7. Symptoms can vary from month to month or year to year.


Menstrual cramps occur when muscles of the uterus squeeze the lining out. This is part of normal menstruation. They occur often in females who have just begun to menstruate. They may go away or be less severe after a woman reaches her mid-twenties or gives birth. Childbirth stretches the uterus.

Menstrual cramps occur much less often in women who do not ovulate. In fact, birth control pills reduce painful periods in 70 to 80% of females who take them. When the birth control pill is stopped, the same level of pain returns.

Menstrual cramps can be due to other problems, such as fibroids, endometriosis, ovarian cysts, and rarely, cancer. An intrauterine device (IUD) can also cause cramps, especially in women who haven’t been pregnant. The Progestasert IUD is different. It lessens cramps and lightens menstrual flow.

Questions to Ask

With menstrual cramps, do you have any of these problems?

  1. Black stools or blood in the stools.

  2. The pain is extreme.

  3. Menstrual periods have been pain-free for years, but now occur with severe cramps.

Have your periods been very painful since having an intrauterine device (IUD) inserted? Or, do you still have cramps after your period is over?

With menstrual cramps, do you have any signs of infection, such as fever or foul-smelling vaginal discharge?

Do any of these things apply?

  1. Bleeding with a period is heavier than normal.

  2. You could be newly pregnant (your period is late by one week or longer) and you have pain that feels like menstrual cramps.